May 24

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Bags of deceit

In the last few days two new ‘charity’ clothing donation bags have landed on doormats across our area. I covered this issue a few years back on this website, at that time it was company called Rutex that was behind it.

The current ‘charity’ clothing collections appear to be from two different outfits (excuse the pun). Here are pictures of them, perhaps you also had one?


Exhibit A: Safe Today, but is it?


Exhibit B: Do Not Delay, probably better to permanently delay.


Digging into this a bit deeper it seems like the second hand clothing market is a booming one. Several dubious businesses (not charities) act in partnership with the so called charities to deliver the bags and collect donated clothing from householders. The charities they collect for are often not UK charities at all, and may be bogus charities in their own countries. The collected clothes have a market value and they will be sold on for a ‘per ton’ rate. A small percentage of the proceeds might go to support a good cause, somewhere, but the vast majority will line the pockets of a businessman. An overview of typical operations can be read here.

The big UK charities are of course a different matter, they do great work and almost all the money raised from selling on or recycling the clothes goes to fund their cause. All worthy and above board.

Door to door collections require a licence from the local council. Operating without one is illegal. This site will enquire as to whether our current suspects have a license, but it’s very doubtful. You can find out more about licensing by WHBC here.

The country of Lithuania seems to be home for many of these operations; it’s not clear why that is. This website has a lot of information and a directory of the very many companies involved in clothing collections. You can see from the list that many are bogus and many are closed down only to reopen under a different name later on.

So what about our current crop of suspect house collections?

Exhibit A:

“Safe Today” is not the name of a charity or a business; it’s just two words aimed at misleading you. The collection company is called Help of Hand UK and they have a registered office in Leeds, they are highlighted in this article from the Daily Mirror.  They have previously been prosecuted by Leicestershire council. The charity they claim to be collecting for are called Two Sisters, allegedly registered as a charity in Zambia but with a South African registered website. Their website is here, but it doesn’t seem to be professionally worded or follow the usual structure of development charity websites. Either way you be sure they will getting very little from Hand  of Help UK.

According to the charity bags website:

The price fetched by second-hand textiles fluctuates (in a similar way to other commodities such as oil and wheat).  As at December 2011, virgin clothes (see definition below) were fetching around £1,000 per tonne.  This was three times the price of five years before.This rise has caused an increase in the number of commercial collectors in the UK (including misleading and bogus ‘charitable’ collectors).  It’s also led to an increase in the theft of bags left out for house-to-house collections.” (source here).

Hand of Help UK claim to pay £50 a ton of donated clothing to Two Sisters, based on the value above that means they keep 95% of the proceeds from donations for themselves. Hardly a charitable operation.
Exhibit B:

“Do Not Delay” is the name of a breast screening project in Lithuania, operated by Lithuanian charity Azzara. The Daily Mirror also investigated it, here. The collection company are called Intersecond, more about their dubious status can be found here. A local newspaper article from 2008 about them can be found here.
The moral of the story here seems to be that it’s better to donate your clothing to a reputable UK charity, one that has a charity commission number and proper UK address. Better still, one whose work you know about and feel comfortable supporting. If we don’t stuff these bogus bags with our old clothes they’ll soon stop being delivered to us.
You can also report any suspect looking collection bags to WHBC at  licensing@welhat.gov.uk who should know whether or not they are legally collecting. If they are not legal trading standards would also be interested.

If in doubt stick the charities you know and trust.

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